Is Noosa prepared to fight for its life ?

Like the proverbial bombshell, the State Government dropped its new population growth targets on South-East Queensland Councils this week. The reverberations are still rattling around Noosa.

  • An extra 2.2 million people for the bottom corner of the state by 2046. 
  • 19,100 more people in Noosa. (10,000 in the next 2 to 3 years)
  • Possible high-rise in Noosa of 4 to 8 storeys.

Most South East Councils took the news pretty much in their stride, they are – after all – comfortable, even cosy, with the idea of rapid development and population increase.  But here in Noosa, this is about as close as it gets to an existential battle for everything we’ve fought for since the 60’s. It would destroy much of the “Noosa Brand”, as well as the economic engine of our tourism industry which is based on low density, high environmental values and our marked difference from the other high-rise coastal destinations to our South.  In other words, this is a fight for our lifestyle, our environment and our economy.

With all this at stake, Mayor Stewart should have learned from recent experience that the usual rhetoric will not be enough to make the State Government change course.

So what’s her plan for convincing Minister Miles to exempt Noosa from population increases being imposed on every South East Queensland council? Here’s a sample of our Mayor’s statements.

Noosa Council will continue to advocate strongly to protect our interests, both to the Minister and Premier directly, as well as through the SEQ Regional Council of Mayors. We made our concerns known on Tuesday in a meeting in Brisbane with state officials, mayors, and senior planning staff from across South-East Queensland


Noosa Council will continue to advocate strongly to protect our interests, both to the Minister and Premier directly, as well as through the SEQ Regional Council of Mayors

And again:

We have been working closely with other councils through the Council of Mayors


Mayor Stewart (in white) in Vancouver, Canada, earlier this year on a SEQ Mayors’ jaunt

Noosa needs to go it alone, with an independent voice

Mayor Stewart’s plan appears to promise little more than the obvious talking points delivered to both the State and the SEQ Council of Mayors.  

Oh, the irony of it all. After extolling the virtues of Noosa Council – at considerable expense – rejoining the SEQ Council of Mayors, our Mayor presumably wants them to support Noosa’s case to be treated differently from them!

Historically every other council in SEQ has encouraged and supported population growth. Noosa would have a better case for being treated differently from the rest of SEQ had Noosa not rejoined the pro-development Council of Mayors. 

After all, Noosa escaped its worst nightmare of an enlarged urban footprint during the last SEQ Plan review when it wasn’t a Council of Mayors member.

Noosa has faced big challenges in the past, but we all know this time could be terminal in so many ways. Once again, we need to counter politicians who care little for communities.

Talk will get us nowhere, and asking the public for submissions will not be enough. Our community leaders must agree and prosecute the type of well-organised, multi-layered strategy that has been successful in the past. And they need to carry our community with them.

The problem is that the Mayor’s statements show no evidence of a winning strategy coming from council. And the last thing we want is for Council to go to its default position when it needs a strategy – engage a consultant for some off-the-shelf rubbish.

Hopefully we can rely on our State MP Sandy Bolton to take a lead in this area, not for the first time. 

In Sandy’s words – think of how congested Noosa is at Christmas and Easter, and then imagine that non-stop, all year round. 

Our Independent MP can tap into community expertise where needed to develop a broad strategy that has at least a chance of success. 

At the very least, any strategy must include a well-argued rationale for the Planning Minister to treat Noosa differently from other SEQ areas. That’s not impossible, just made harder by membership of the Council of Mayors and by the failure of this splintered Council to build the kind of genuine community  consensus needed for this battle.  

Finally, let’s say the quiet bit out loud.  As we have reported elsewhere, the Mayor now appears to be the only one left in the field to be nominated as the LNP candidate for the seat of Noosa in next year’s election.  If she was finding it difficult to be heard in Brisbane by the ALP Government, well … it just got a whole lot harder.


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Of course, Noosa’s population cap is a bit of a fiction, ‘enforced’ only at the whim of a Council that continues to make it very difficult to “up-zone” new development areas, and making it very difficult to “subdivide” and create new urban areas. Since the Playford Council created the Cap it has always been a majority position in Noosa to maintain these limits to population.

    The latest SEQ Regional Planning is the greatest threat to that position. SEQ introduces the euphemistically and somewhat metaphorically named “gentle density” (a “gradual, incremental approach to development that limits abrupt changes in scale, density or character that might disrupt existing communities”) [p 82 Shaping SEQ].

    I submit that the government has chosen the WRONG metaphor! Instead of “Gentle Density” it should be either “Boiled Frog Density” (Put a frog in a pot of cold water and raise the temperature gradually – the frog won’t jump out until eventually it boils to death), or “Salami Density” (a salami is cut one slice at a time until all of a sudden before you know it there is no salami left.)

    Under this thin end of the wedge Boiled Frog Density approach, where a High Amenity Area is identified, local governments are required to proactively support increased densities” [p.80 Shaping SEQ] Being a “high Amenity Area” is likely to include many areas in urban Noosa (near Activity Centres, with bus frequency, green space / parks, school). Note the word “required”.

    The loophole for Council is that whereas High Amenity Areas around Principal Regional Activity Centres (e.g. Maroochydore) or Principle Rural Activity Centres (e.g. Gatton) and “high frequency transport stations” have MINIMUM residential density targets; High Amenity Areas outside these areas have a minimum density range as determined by local government”.

    Noosa Council needs to determine the CURRENT density ranges are appropriate on the basis of our highly constrained infrastructure situation. Infrastructure has been (barely) designed for when we reach a steady state population, something that is inevitable under any population “capping”. We have no capacity to boiled frog densify.


    In fact, Noosa needn’t belong in the SEQ Region-scape at all! If we draw a circle 120 km from the Brisbane CBD we pretty much include Toowoomba, and exclude Noosa. Noosa’s potential population uplift (AT WORST) is a mere 1% of the SEQ Region. It would make NO difference if Noosa was left out of the calculations altogether.

    My ultimate solution is to recognise that Noosa is INDEED different. Recognise that in the Regional mix there are some areas that are best left the way they are. (Amenity of a different kind.) I propose that governments create a new concept – A standalone transition zone girdling the Great Cooloola Wilderness, stretching from Noosa through Gympie to Rainbow Beach. This area to be treated separately from the urbanised component of SEQ as a stand-alone lower density unit. There may be an opportunity to extend this to the girdle around K’gari as well….


    NO to Boiled Frog (Gentle) Density in Noosa.

  2. Avatar

    All so true!
    Certainly Noosa would be better off by not being part of the pro-development Council of Mayors, with our current Mayor wanting to be part of State Parliament. The State’s projected population explosion and urban development for Noosa is simply not feasible or sustainable. Noosa is a recognised UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and we shall fight to retain that status.

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